Saudi Arabia appears intent on reaching across the Red Sea to build alliances in the Horn of Africa, where piracy, drug and weapons smuggling, and terrorism threaten commerce in the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
This was evident during the Saudis’ intervention in Yemen. Over the past year, they built a coalition of African partners to help dislodge Houthi rebels who were in control of most of the country, including the capital, Sana’a.
Eritrea played a key role, although it was not technically part of the Saudis’ 12-nation coalition. Eritrea allowed the United Arab Emirates to use an airbase and logistics hub in the port town of Assab. The two countries also shared intelligence.
“Peace and stability in the Horn of Africa is very important for us,” Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri, a military adviser for the Saudi minister of defense, told VOA in a recent interview. “This is why we coordinate with Eritrea, with Djibouti, with Ethiopia, with Somalia, with the legitimate governments of Yemen and Sudan, to make sure that this area is controlled and secured to avoid … trans-border crimes.”
Analysts say the Saudis’ interest in the Horn of Africa is an extension of their intense competition with Iran for influence in the Middle East.
Source: voice of America